Healing comes not by numbing our symptoms but by painfully getting to the root of our brokenness.
The physical reality of parenthood is an icon for the spiritual reality of the fatherhood and of the motherhood to which all men and women are called. It all starts in the womb. Women are created to receive, nurture, and birth life. Men are created to give, protect, and provide life. These vocations are complementary: receiving and giving; nurturing and protecting; birthing and providing. When we contemplate this icon, physical parenthood becomes a window through we can understand spiritual fatherhood and spiritual motherhood. Taking the words of Socrates to heart- that “the unexamined life is not worth living-” let us now examine how exactly men and women discover who they are and what they are made for. Men can ask of themselves: am I living out my vocation as spiritual father by giving, protecting, and providing life? Women can ask of themselves: am I living our my vocation as spiritual mother by receiving, nurturing, and birthing life?
Jesus tells us to love God and to love neighbor (Luke 10:27). We can know how much we love God by how much we love neighbor through the living out of our masculine and feminine vocations. Hence, the health of our vertical relationship with God can be measured by the health of our horizontal relationship with neighbor. When we are not allowed to live out our vocation toward neighbor, either because of inner or outer obstacles, our relationship with God takes a toll as well. In these tough times, we must pray for an increase of faith, hope, and love to live out our vocations and actualize all our potentials and be the best version of ourselves. God wants us to discover who we are, and we do this through relationship with our neighbor.
Men discover who they are through an exterior connection to the world, such as being part of a team that is working on a meaningful project to make a system more efficient and useful. Women, on the other hand, discover who their are through an interior connection with people. This is not to say that men, through their exterior connection to the world, don’t develop a meaningful interior connection with people; or that women, through their interior connection with people, don’t develop a meaningful exterior connection with the world.
Men identify with their role in society. Society bestows a title on them that represents the responsibility the world has entrusted to them and has placed on their shoulders- paramedic, carpenter, lawyer, cop, manager, etc. Women identify with their role in relationships – daughter, sister, wife, aunt, grandmother, friend, mentor.
Whereas men need to go out on their own and “cut the umbilical cord” to discover themselves, women discover themselves through relationship and are motivated by how well they can stay connected to people throughout life. For women to “cut the umbilical cord” in any relationship is extremely painful and requires much healing work in the area of forgiveness, and, where possible, reconciliation. Men need to know they can be on their own and do it on their own; there are deep emotional wounds if this is the case in a woman.
Men and women estimate their value in vastly different ways. Men ask themselves: Am I adequate for this job? Am I good at my job? Am I trusted with this responsibility? Am I respected on the job? Is my advice sought after? Are my solutions applied? How can I improve and become more efficient at my job? Are my needs being met? Are my needs being heard? Are my efforts, loyalty, and sacrifice appreciated? Am I a valuable and irreplaceable part of this team? Are people proud of me? This “job” concerns more than the 9 to 5. I’d argue that, in mature and whole men, these questions are more frequently asked concerning their job at home rather than work. Men want to be received and nurtured at home and see their dreams come to life because of their family not despite of their family. In immature and broken men, these questions are more frequently asked concerning their job at work because it is simply too painful to think about their job at home, where they feel inadequate, unappreciated, disrespected, and where their basic physical needs, such as food and sex, are not being met. In the latter, it is likely that the “umbilical cord” was either cut to early or too late. Men need a maternal figure, but they can’t be smothered by their mother…or their wife. Men are warriors who fight and die for the people they love. Men interpret a woman’s fear that they’ll get hurt not as care of their person but as distrust of their strength. Women shouldn’t shoulder a man’s burden, which, to men, isn’t their burden but their proud duty and responsibility. Women can’t allow fear get in the way of men being men. It is man’s pride and honor to love just as Christ loved by giving up his life for the Church.
Women ask themselves: Am I loved? Am I accepted? Am I seen? Am I heard? Am I beautiful? Am I a womb, a place of refuge for others? Am I connected or isolated? Am I forgiven? Why doesn’t “x” want to open up to me? Is my nurturing encouraging or suffocating dreams? Are my emotional needs being met? Women need a paternal figure, they need to feel secure (this goes way beyond financial security) that they are not going to be abandoned but protected and provided for spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. They need emotional intimacy that does not always need to be found in sex but in a soft and present caress.
Are you a man that is absorbed in his work and seeking appreciation and nurture from other women? Are you a woman that is isolated and not connecting emotionally with others, especially with other women and desiring attention from men? The root of our brokenness ultimately lies in how well we feel that we are living out our masculine and feminine vocations. God made us male and female so that we could learn how to become one. This job is much harder post-Fall since we are born into a broken world and where we are ashamed to be naked, i.e. to live out our masculinity and femininity and express our needs without fear of being rejected. If you are in a broken relationship, know that Christ, the Divine Physician wants to pour out His healing grace. He has the power to resurrect what is dead and make of us a new creation. This all applies not only to husband and wife, but to brother and sister, and father/mother and daughter/son. Someone has to take the first step. Place yourself in the mind of a man or in the heart of a woman by reflecting on those questions stated before. Start meeting each other’s needs and see how God, Who alone fulfills all of our needs, begins to bring man’s attention and direction back home and starts to soften woman’s heart, inviting her once more into meaningful relationships.
If you haven’t already read them, I recommend these two books for a healing discussion on the masculine and the feminine vocations from a Christian perspective:
Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul by John Eldredge
Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge